Rising singer/songwriter Dani Sylvia takes a moment from her new studio projects in the studio to talk to me about her creative process, influences and what it’s like to be youn and female in the music business today?
Have you always been a solo female musician?
Yes I have, although I have a brilliant band that have supported me and stuck with me since the start. The amazing musicians that have gigged/recorded/toured with me so far are Serge Sainte Rose, Chet Jogia, Lorenzo Bassignani, Sara Di Santis, Roberto Angrisani, Marc Henderson, Adele Pentland, Nicole Di Gioacchino, Alessandro Lombardo, Clare Uchima and Dave Baker.
Was this always the musical direction and line up?
I have gone from a more live band sound in the past to a progressively more electronic sound which I guess was birthed when I toured with ‘The Feeling’ last year. I now use live instruments and gospel style backing vocals but with electronic drums, so the best of both worlds. I also love live acoustic sounds sometimes for smaller venues as it’s very exposing.
I joined a singing group called ‘Urban Voices Collective’ around four years ago and they encouraged me to have confidence in my vocal ability and they also encouraged my belief in my song writing and told me to go for it. That was the real start of it all.
Coming back is a beautiful love and hate letter to London which can be a city of chaos, confusion, heartbreak and survival of the fittest in work and love. Was this the intention behind the lyrics?
I wrote this song just after I arrived home in Sussex to live with my parents again after a challenging time at Uni where I actually studied acting not music (Guildhall School of Music and Drama). It was an amazing experience but the aftermath was full of rejections and I felt a little swallowed up by the feeling of being such a small fish in a giant pond. I had lost my confidence and my way and I guess at the time I associated that feeling with the city itself! I needed to come home and build myself up again. Ironically London is now my favourite place in the world and I am up here every day recording. I love it; I lied in the song! Although at the time it was true.
I’ve always wondered where musicians get their inspiration from, if we are human and go through life hard times and good times….how do you make this into song for work?
I’ve always found it a cathartic experience to put my life’s experiences into song. I feel as though if I create a song that requires me to be honest about my inner most worries or insecurities (and I always try to be as honest as I can) then those feelings exist in the song. Therefore, they become a tangible entity that take those feelings out of my brain and into a solid thing…if that makes any sense? My main inspiration to do that though is that then someone else can hopefully relate and feel less alone. Music did that for me growing up and I really want mine to reach those struggling or who need release. There’s a track on my upcoming album (Tall Tales) called ‘The Shame’ which is a brutally honest song about rejection in a relationship. It was hard for me to write, but now that I have I feel more free of that feeling.
How is your process with writing, studio and performing? Do you feel pressure to be fast or take creative time?
With writing I usually try and complete a track in one night, which usually takes from about 10pm until about 5am (when I am at my most creative). I write lyric ideas down all day every day though and record little melodies. I think I find studio the most frustrating as it takes ages and there are changes of direction throughout. I am in general a very impatient person when it comes to my music so actually if I’m honest I do feel in a rush when it comes to getting the music out there and progressing.
Do you surround yourself with other creatives when not performing and on stage, or like the environment of anything artistic?
Yes, constantly. Every single one of my friends is either a singer, writer or actor. I absolutely love creative people and the way their brains work and we push each other to be better all the time and to keep creating. My solace from that though are my lovely family who aren’t creative at all really. They keep my feet on the ground when I’m getting too stressed. They say “it’s just music!” which is SO true and important to remember when I’m going stir crazy in studios.
Do you feel pressure as a female musician to really stand your ground on being yourself when it comes to appearance, videos and style? What shows do you have coming up this year?
I definitely stand my ground 100% when it comes to the creative process, for example, the narratives of my music videos, the concept and most importantly the production of my songs. Two of my album tracks I wrote with the amazing Darren Poole and the other with ENV, however with the rest of the songs on there the music and lyrics are written just by me, as I do love creating something on my own. I think with styling I’m aware that it’s totally not my area of expertise so I am always up for hearing people’s ideas on that. I think I’d be worried about wearing anything that distracted too much from the music though.
I am currently finishing my album after having had plays on Radio 2 as well as BBC Introducing London and BBC Introducing Sussex/Surrey with my latest single ‘Omniscient’. My last big performance was at The Unsigned Music Awards at Troxy late last year where I won ‘Best Songwriter’ presented by BASCA. It was such an amazing night and I am so grateful to have received this award. Once this album is complete, which will be quite soon, I’ll be doing an album listening party to a small audience of industry and friends and then I hope to do a little tour around the country. However, as I gigged so much last year I’ve been putting every minute into creating this debut album as I want it to be as good as possible. Everyone on my team is working hard to make it happen, I’m so lucky for that.
If you’d like to hear some material before coming to see me at a gig later this year though, my first EP ‘Monologues’ is on iTunes and Spotify. I’d love you to have a listen.